Wednesday, 26 May 2021

The Conjuring - The Devil Made Me Do It

Occult Friction

The Conjuring -
The Devil Made Me Do It

2021 USA Directed by Michael Chaves
UK cinema release print.

Warning: Very mild spoilers.

If there was a film that was going to get me back into cinemas for a screening during our unwise pseudo-release from corona lockdown, then a film in the Conjuring franchise was definitely going to be one of the few to do it. Alas, I found out too late that the film was censored over here by a couple of seconds to hide the fact that, if you want to slit your wrists then the most effective way to do it is with a vertical, rather than horizontal, slash. In fairness, the studio was offered an 18 certificate to keep the footage in but unwisely chose to pre-cut it for UK shores. So shame on them and also the BBFC for insisting that this common practice was only eligible for an 18 rating. Frankly, I think they should drop the ratings system now for good. So, I’ll make sure to remember to buy the American release when this thing comes out on Blu Ray, which will presumably be the uncut version. I wish Cineworld had pre-warned its potential ticket buyers of this cut because, frankly, I could have stayed at home and watched an uncut, HD version for free on one of many internet channels rather than pay to see a cut version. Yeah, I’m pretty angry about this... angrier even than the atrocious excuse for ‘social distancing’ that Cineworld seem to be hoodwinking their customers into thinking is taking place. Yes, I’m sure they’re doing it under strict government guidance... but we all know how useless, untrustworthy and just plain stupid our government is so, I thought a little common sense should be kicking in right now.

Anyway, back to the movie.

I’m happy to report that, despite the change of director and writers, The Conjuring - The Devil Made Me Do It, is every bit as good as the previous two Conjuring movies (or, you know, the previous seven Conjuring movies if you count all the spin offs so far... more of which are said to be coming). It also sticks to that tried and true formula which studios like to insist makes for a good sequel (but rarely does) and somehow manages to get away with it and make it work here. That being the principal that people want to see exactly the same thing... but different.

And yeah, there is a lot of the same stuff going on here and, frankly, it wouldn’t be a Conjuring movie if it didn’t do this stuff. As you probably know, the main ‘name’ movies in the Conjuring universe are all true (if highly augmented) stories coming from the case files of real life ‘demon busters’ Ed and Lorraine Warren. Ed’s been gone a while now but Lorraine finally passed back in 2019. At the end of the movie, during the credits, you’ll see footage of Ed and Lorraine being interviewed about this case, along with photographs, recordings and press clippings of some of the other real life people portrayed in this story. Please note, however, that once these scenes have finished by about midway through the end titles, there’s no subsequent post credits scene on this movie... you can get up and go home.

So, in terms of familiarity with the previous films, yeah... the plot will often deliberately split the attentions of both Ed and Lorraine and you will, as always, have the intense moments where Lorraine has to go into a tiny, claustrophobic space with hardly any light to find a clue and, also, the scenes (more than one) where she is projecting herself into an earlier incident to find out what really happened. They also do the thing where Ed is made somehow vulnerable again. In this case, the film starts off with the exorcism of a young boy which, actually... fails. Ed is attacked by the demon and it nearly stops his heart and it takes Ed a while to recover in hospital from the heart attack. So all the way through you are fearful as you wonder if his heart can take the strain, if he’s remembered to bring his heart pills with him and also, he’s given a walking stick to help him get around. And, of course, sound design is everything in these movies so the clack of the stick hitting whatever ground Ed is walking on gives the foley guys something to use to set up rhythms which can be interrupted to build tension and also change tone as he hits on different material. It’s nicely done (as are most things in the franchise).

Meanwhile, the exorcism at the start is what drives the plot in some ways because another member of the family saves the boy by taking the demon into him... or does he? Either way, the guy who takes on board the victim role, Arne (played by Ruairi O'Connor), is forced to kill someone in a gruesome multi-stabbing murder and the governor is going for the death penalty. It’s up to Ed and Lorraine Warren to somehow prove he was possessed by a demon at the time to save his life... but Arne is not released from the demon’s grip just yet... although he’s not strictly possessed by one either.

Okay, so this is where the slightly different element of this movie comes in. In the previous films it’s nearly always just a demon which is the antagonist element. The strength of the films comes in how everyone is really nice and the actors always do a really good job. Once again we have the brilliant Patrick Wilson and the amazing Vera Farmiga reprising their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren and they are surrounded by some pretty good performers, all playing nice people. Except... aha, in this one there’s also a human antagonist and it’s that person who is responsible for all that’s going on here, in the form of a demonic occultist who is bringing all this pain onto the family.

So rather than have Ed and Lorraine staying with the victim of all this supernatural malarky, instead they are wandering around the neighbouring counties playing detective to try and find out who this person is and to break the curse they have brought, by destroying their altar. In the process we also have a nice sequence where Lorraine helps another county’s police force by finding a body for them... which, as it turns out, is completely connected to their own current case.

And, yeah, like I said, a nice movie. Some of the jump scares maybe don’t quite work but what it loses in some areas it more than makes up for in managing to perpetuate a genuinely suspenseful and creepy atmosphere throughout. The gruesome special effects are great plus the ‘supernatural point of view’ roving camera shots inserted at random intervals to tip the hand and create anxiety all work pretty well. Also, there’s a lovely moment near the start when the production team totally go for an homage of the classic poster to The Exorcist, when a priest turns up outside a house (minus the street lamp... they do their own thing with it).

Then there’s the score. I’m not holding out much hope that Watertower Records will actually release Joseph Bishara’s effective music on a proper CD (so I can listen to it as a stand alone) but I’m keeping my fingers crossed they don’t just release a dodgy download version. However, I did notice on the end credits that they’d taken a fair few pieces of music from other scores and used them in the film, such as Daredevil and Christopher Young’s haunting score for The Exorcism Of Emily Rose. I don’t know why they did this but it’s an interesting approach I guess... although I don’t think needle drop is necessarily the way to go with movies like this these days.

All in all, though, The Conjuring - The Devil Made Me Do It is another, terrific entry in a horror series which, for the most part, has been of an extremely high quality. This one definitely gets a big thumbs up from me (if I were prone to make such silly gestures) and horror fans who are worried that the quality is going to drop can go into this one knowing it should probably live up to their expectations. I can’t wait for them to make another.

The Conjuring Universe Films at NUTS4R2
The Conjuring
The Conjuring 2 - The Enfield Case
Annabelle Creation
The Nun
The Curse Of La Llorona
Annabelle Comes Home
The Conjuring - The Devil Made Me Do It

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